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Glen Johnson on Raphinha: “He’d go into that Liverpool mould”
Fabrizio Romano last week claimed that despite the acquisition of Luis Díaz, Liverpool remain in the hunt with Barcelona for Leeds United winger Raphinha. BettingOdds.com caught up with former Liverpool full-back Glen Johnson to discuss the Brazilian as well as Erling Haaland’s expected Manchester City move, Joe Gomez’s future and why he believes West Ham could secure the signature of Marcus Rashford.
Starting with the huge news coming from the Daily Mail that Erling Haaland has decided to make the move to Manchester City this summer. If there’s any truth to this story, then do you believe it’s going to strike fear into your former side Liverpool? Do you believe it will force your former club to make a huge move of their own in the summer?
“Yes. I think if Haaland goes to City then that team is just going to be a joke. It’d be unbelievable.
“We know how Liverpool do their business and they don’t enter bidding wars, they don’t get involved with the biggest names. They sign the rough diamonds and then form the diamonds. But I think this time they’re going to have to change. If Haaland goes to City then they’re going to be about 12 points better off next season and then that’s some gap. Whether Liverpool like it or not, they need to compete. That sort of player only comes around once.”
Consider these front threes: Mohamed Salah, Diogo Jota and Luis Díaz/ Sadio Mané; Erling Haaland, Jack Grealish and Phil Foden/Bernardo Silva. Which one are you going for?
“I’d probably have to go with Grealish, Haaland and Foden. All of those players mentioned are incredible though aren’t they, but Haaland would tip it. He would mix it up. You’ve got a big striker that can play football. He’s not a clumsy forward, he’s technically great, he reads the game well, and he’s big and physical at the same time. Then in Grealish and Foden you’ve got two players who are free-flowing wingers around him. I just wouldn’t want to see three players of a similar type. With the two smaller guys and Haaland, it could be a good combo.”
Tell us your ideal, realistic summer signing for Liverpool?
“I like Raphinha. I think he’s the type of player who would go into that Liverpool mold. It’s a realistic deal as well. He’s not going to cost God-knows-whatever that the likes of Haaland are going to cost. I think Raphinha’s work ethic, the way he plays football and I just think we’ve seen it work already with Diogo Jota and Luis Díaz. Raphinha fits that mould as well.”
It’s rumoured that Joe Gomez is going to push for a summer exit from Liverpool. In your opinion, is this the right call for the player? For example, Tottenham are linked with the defender - would that be a good move for him?
“I don’t know about where exactly but yes, Joe Gomez should move. He’s only getting older and he needs to play. When he’s fighting fit he’s a fantastic player but he’d probably be the first to tell you he hasn’t played enough football. He’s been unlucky with injuries but I definitely think the guy could have a really good career. But you can’t have a good career if you’re not playing. So for him personally I think he needs to either make it clear and really try to get into this team or accept it and move on and play his football elsewhere.
“You’re not getting into Gareth Southgate’s England team if you’re not playing for your club. Let’s face it, Joe Gomez is not in Gareth’s plans at the moment. I think he’s good enough to be, but to turn a manager’s mind around in three months is going to be hard work. You just don’t know. Maybe he’ll just run out of time for the World Cup at the end of the year but if there’s any chance for him to head to Qatar then he needs to play.”
Liverpool are the current favourites ahead of Manchester United to sign Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans this summer. Do you believe he’d be a good signing for your former club? Which of the two clubs do you believe he’d suit best?
“He’d be a fantastic signing for Liverpool. I know they have Thiago, but Youri could add that attacking threat from the midfield and I think he’s a super athletic, intelligent player that could suit that Liverpool midfield. He’d be much more suited to Liverpool than Manchester United.”
The Telegraph claimed recently that Newcastle United see Antonio Rüdiger as a statement signing for the club in the summer. He’s 29 years old now, and it may take years before Newcastle compete amongst the very best, so do you believe this would be a mistake by the player if he was to make the move up north?
“Yes, I do think it would be a mistake. Without being disrespectful, there’d be only one reason why Antonio Rüdiger would be going to Newcastle. I think he’s still got a lot to offer. If you’re still fighting for titles and going deep in most competitions, why would you look to leave? He’s obviously earning good money now. That’ll continue. No, if he goes to Newcastle right now it’d be for the wrong reasons.”
Rüdiger’s also linked with Manchester United. Hypothetically, if he was to make the move, how much backlash would you expect the player to receive from the Chelsea fans?
“Yeah he would get stick. You can’t pull the wool over it, it is what it is: if he goes, everyone knows why. To leave a top London-based team - and I’m not saying Newcastle or Manchester aren’t nice places to live, not at all - and I know he likes the London lifestyle, I’d be very surprised if he changes that at this point in his career.”
Kepa Arrizabalaga’s being linked with a move to Newcastle United. Considering his difficult spell in the Premier League and the fact that he’s firmly second-choice behind Édouard Mendy despite being the most expensive goalkeeper in the world, do you believe he’s worth another club with a lot of cash taking a punt on him? Or is it a risk worth not taking?
“It all boils down to the size of the deal. I think he’s a good player but he’s worth nowhere near what Chelsea paid for him and he’s worth nowhere near what he’s being paid every week. If somebody can get him for a sensible fee then of course he’s worth taking a punt on as he’s too good to be a number two but he’s not good enough to replace [Édouard] Mendy. You don’t realistically need a number two as good as Kepa. Mendy will play 90 percent of the games so you can help your finances by not having a number two like that there. If Chelsea were looking to recoup the majority of the money that they paid for him then I’d go nowhere near him if I was a prospective buyer.”
Newcastle United have a rumoured interest in Real Madrid’s Eden Hazard. Considering the shrewd business Newcastle did in the January window, do you believe a mega move for a player who’s suffered numerous injuries over the last couple of years goes against the grain of what business the club have been doing?
“It does sort of go against the grain of the business that Newcastle have been doing recently. At the same time, if you can get Eden Hazard anywhere near his best then he’d be an unbelievable signing. Factors that could affect the move would be how much Eden wants it and his desire to get back to his best. If Newcastle can pull it off and Eden’s interested then they’re going to get a superstar. If you’d have asked me a question about Eden moving to Newcastle four months ago when they were really in the crap then I’d be advising him to go nowhere near them as he’s a sensational player but he’s not going to roll his sleeves up and put his body on the line for you when you’re fighting relegation. Now they’re in a totally different situation where they’ve climbed up the league and they’re getting closer to where they should be, so they could probably get away with a luxury player like Eden now.”
West Ham are one of the shock names linked with a move for Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford. Do you believe West Ham could pull off such a move?
“If Marcus Rashford was playing the way he could play then this wouldn’t even be a conversation as he’d be starting for Manchester United every week. I think he’s a great player. West Ham are a team now that are beginning to knock on the door so in that case everything’s a possibility.”
Whilst we’re on the subject, Anfield legend John Barnes recently claimed that Marcus Rashford would suit Liverpool. Do you agree with that statement, regardless of whether the move is likely or not?
“I believe Marcus Rashford would suit any team. Any team who gets him is getting a great player as you don’t lose your ability overnight. Imagine him in the Liverpool side? He’d be brilliant but he’d be throttled if he made that choice.”
It’s been speculated that Arsenal are looking to hijack Aston Villa’s permanent move for your former teammate Philippe Coutinho. Do you believe he’d want to make that move especially if Arsenal secure 4th place? Arsenal also have a couple of players in that number 10 role, so in all honesty do Arsenal need him?
“If Arsenal got the chance to sign him then they need to sign him. He would be the best number ten they’ve got without a shadow of a doubt. I think the move is a possibility if Arsenal get fourth. I should be Coutinho’s agent as I’ll never stop singing his praises. When this player enjoys his football then he’s got all sorts in his locker. He’s come to the hardest league in the world, into a team that was struggling and he’s running the show.”
Who’s been your signing of the season so far and who’s been the worst?
“The best signing I would say is Luis Díaz for Liverpool. You don’t see many players hit the ground the way he has in the Premier League. The worst one, which is a bit harsh, I’d say Dele Alli to Everton. It was an odd move. At first I thought it was a good signing as I thought it was a free transfer but since then we’ve all learned that it could potentially cost Everton up to £40 million. I think Dele is a good player, but are you telling me he can’t get into this Everton side? I just don’t understand it. He went there to play and he’s not playing so it just looks odd from the outside.”